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Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Flooring is one of the most important finishes of the interior. It has to be aesthetically pleasing, be appropriate for the intended use, be comfortable to walk on, and be safe. Also consider the durability of a flooring and its environmental sustainability. The cost of flooring varies greatly; keep your budget in mind when making your selection. Once you have made your floor choice for each space, add this into your chart of your wall finishes and ceilings.

The floor of your home can be sunk lower in an area or raised up. Lowering or raising your floor in an area creates a separation of that area without walls. Consider accessibility of an area if you are planning to raise or lower a part of the floor.

The variety of types of flooring available is too great to cover comprehensively here; below is a list and some attributes of the most common choices.

Wood flooring can be either solid or engineered. Engineered wood flooring has a wood veneer over a wood composite core, which makes it more stable than solid wood floor. There are many different wood species available. Choose a domestic species rather than a exotic one to be more environmentally sustainable. Not all wood species are appropriate over a heated floor. Wood flooring expands and contracts depending on the moisture content in the air, which sometimes results in cracks getting larger during the winter. Engineered flooring doesn't expand as much as solid wood flooring. Wood flooring scratches relatively easily and might not be suitable for pets. Wood flooring is expensive to purchase and the installation is costly as well.

Bamboo flooring comes in either stranded, horizontal or engineered flooring. Stranded bamboo flooring is made by shredding the bamboo into strands and then compressing them into sheets using a resin binder. Horizontal bamboo floor is made by cutting strips and gluing them together to make planks. Bamboo behaves much like hardwood floors. It expands and contracts depending on the moisture content of the air. Bamboo grows quickly and can be harvested every five to six year, which make it a easily renewal

Laminated flooring is available in many colors and finishes. It is durable and more scratch resistant than wood flooring. Water resistant laminate flooring is also available and a great choice for areas where moisture might be a concern such as kitchens, basements, and entries. The cost of laminate flooring varies widely as does the quality. A lower quality is appropriate for bedrooms and other rooms where there isn't a lot of wear. However, choose a medium to high quality for rooms with lots of traffic.

Cork flooring is very comfortable to walk and stand on as it provides some cushioning. It is available in different colors. Cork flooring is relatively soft and heavy furniture will leave dents in the flooring. It feels warm to the touch.

Ceramic, Porcelain and stone tiles are available in different textured finishes, colours, and patterns. Tiles generally feel cold to the touch and are hard, which makes them very durable although hard impacts can crack them. Some tiles have a recycled content, which makes them more environmentally sustainable. Tiles can also effectively add to the thermal mass for passive solar heating. Consider installing in-floor heating underneath tiles.

Carpet, whether wall to wall or carpet tiles, helps to control the noise in spaces. It reduces the sounds of footsteps and absorbs other sounds as well. Carpet adds a soft texture to a space giving it a warm feel.

Some carpets contain a percentage of recycled content and are recyclable which improves the environmental sustainability of carpets. The main drawback of carpets is their cleanability.

SPC, Stone Plastic Composite or Rigid Core Vinyl Flooring, is completely waterproof. SPC flooring mimics the appearance of wood or tile floor. It is durable and appropriate for moist areas, such as bathrooms, kitchens, entries, and basements.

Vinyl is a cost effective solution for wet areas. It comes in a variety of colours and finishes. It is easy to install and suitable for floors with lots of movement such as in seasonal homes.

Concrete is a cost effective, durable solution for homes on a slab. The concrete for your slab can be polished and textured to serve as a finished floor. Different finish textures and colours are available. Like tiles, concrete feels cold to the touch, but offers an efficient thermal mass for passive solar heating. Concrete has a high embodied energy and is not environmentally sustainable, but if existing concrete is finished as flooring it reduces the need for additional flooring material.

Next week we will have an enlightening look at lighting!

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This week we will discuss some of the interior finishes. We will start with the walls and ceilings. In order to stay organized I recommend you make a chart. List the rooms in your home on the left side and write wall, ceilings, floors across the top (see example below). Include floors on the chart, we will discuss some of the flooring options next week. While considering the finishes don't be too concerned about the colours for the time being. We will discuss colour in a later post. If you need help your designer can assist you to make the choices and achieve the look you desire within your budget.

Ceiling design: There are many options to design a more interesting ceiling than a flat surface, especially if you have higher ceilings. You might consider suspending part of the ceiling, recessing a portion of the ceiling with possible integrated lighting, and adding traditional ceiling beams or other forms of ceiling partitions. A sense of space and privacy can be created with the design of the ceiling without the use of walls; ask your designer for assistance to create the ceiling that suits your needs. Ceiling design is an opportunity to create a unique space without inhibiting the flow within that space or affecting the accessibility of an area.

Wall design: Walls don't necessarily have to be straight, solid floor to ceiling partitions. Walls might be translucent, partial, curved, or angled. Consider using partial or translucent walls where a sense of separation is wanted but privacy is not needed. If you are renovating you might consider moving or eliminating walls.

Walls and ceilings finishes: Most homes have smooth gypsum board, also know as drywall, on the walls and smooth or textured gypsum boards on the ceiling. While these are the most commonly used materials they are by no means the only ones. The following is a list of some options available. If you have a question about a product listed below or would like more information feel free to ask.

Gypsum board is very versatile as it can be finished smooth or giving a texture. It can be painted in any colour of the rainbow or wallpaper can be applied. Gypsum board is an economical choice and changing the colour in the future is easily possible. Gypsum board can be installed around curved walls, and corners can be rounded.

Wood is another option for wall and ceilings. It gives the home a rustic and warm feel. There are several domestic wood species available; pine, spruce, cedar, oak, maple, poplar, and others. Wood is locally available in most regions in Canada and can be a sustainable choice. Wood can be left natural or stained and finished. Wood can be a cost effective alternative to Gypsum board as it is locally available in Canada and relatively easy to install.

Flooring is sometimes used for ceilings or accent walls. Flooring materials come in a wide variety of materials, finishes and colours. We will cover the different flooring materials next week. As these products are manufactured for flooring they are exceptionally durable and long lasting in wall or ceiling applications. Using flooring on walls and/or ceilings makes them a considerable costlier choice than gypsum board.

Tiles come in the traditional tile look, stone look, wood look, or patterns. With such a large variety of tiles available there is a suitable tile for almost any room. The installation of tiles is costly and the tiles themselves can be expensive. Tiles feel cold to the touch.

Suspended ceilings are another option especially if you want to have easy access to the space above the ceiling. They are available in fiber, wood, and metal panels, each with different textures and finishes available. Most of the fiber panels can be painted in the color of your choice. Some ceiling panels are made from recycled materials making them a sustainable choice.

Panels for walls and ceilings are available from several suppliers in cork, wood, resin, and fabric to name a few. Panels can create a great accent wall, absorb sound, add to insulation, and make a design statement. The diversity of the available panels is too great to go into detail here.

Glass and resin are alternatives for wall construction and finish. They can provide privacy and separation without taking up a lot of space. Because they are translucent to some degree allowing light to filter through, they can provide an interior room without windows with some daylight.

Next week we will have a look at different flooring options.

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You now have a plan of your future home. You might want to have a 3D model created of your future home to help you visualize it better and ensure it is just the way you want. A 3D model will also enable you to further fine-tune your plans.

The next step is to do a preliminary selection of finishes starting with the exterior finishes. A designer can help you make the appropriate choice for your house and budget. Following is a list of the most common available materials and short description of pros and cons.


10. Siding: There are a lot of choices for exterior siding and each material offers different options in texture and colours to choose from. Select the material and texture you'd like first and them choose a color in combination with other exterior finishes, such as windows, doors, roofing, trim, accents, and more.

Vinyl Siding is the most common siding choice used in Canada. It comes in a variety of textures, and colors. It is the lowest cost siding available, easy to install, maintenance free, but not environmentally sustainable

Metal Siding like Vinyl comes in a variety of colors and textures. It is costlier than vinyl and a little more difficult to install. It provides good protection from the elements, is long lasting, maintenance free, fire-resistant, and is recyclable at the end of its useful lifespan.

Wood Siding is available in shingles, clapboard, board and bat, and other styles. The clapboard siding is available in pre-finished colours. Wood siding gives your home a classic and rich look, and depending on the source of wood it can be an environmentally sustainable choice, but it does require maintenance and is costlier than vinyl or metal siding

Brick, stone and veneers come in a wide variety of colors and textures. It creates a classic and timeless look, is very durable,fire resistant, and maintenance free for an extended period. It is a costly choice, but if sourced locally can be a sustainable choice.

Fiber-cement Siding comes in either a brick, stucco, or wood look. It is a maintenance free siding, very durable and fire resistant. It is a costlier than vinyl or metal.

Stucco Siding is traditionally used on Mediterranean house exteriors. It can be painted any color and offers a choice of textures. It is a fire-resistant, and durable exterior. Stucco requires some maintenance to last the lifetime of the house.

Architectural Panels are another option that offers a great modern look and great durability.

11. Roofing:

Asphalt Shingles are the most common roofing material used in Canada. They are cost effective and available in different colors and styles. Asphalt shingles are not an environmentally sustainable choice because of their limited lifespan, resources required for production, and that they are generally not recycled. (Recycling is possible but the process is difficult and there are very few facilities.)

Metal Roofing is available in many colors, and as either sheet metal or metal shingles. It is very durable and fire resistant. The price of metal roofing is generally a little higher than asphalt shingles, but they last longer. The metal is recyclable at the end of its lifespan which makes it more environmentally sustainable than asphalt shingles.

Clay Tiles, like the stucco siding, creates a Mediterranean look. They are highly durable and maintenance free but are heavy and require an especially strong roof construction. If this is your choice it needs to be planned early on in the planning process.

Slate is very durable and fire resistant roofing material. It is available in different shades. Like the clay tiles slate is heavy and requires an especially strong roof construction and needs to be planned for early in the planning stages. Slate tiles last a long time and can be recycled.

Wood Shingles and Shakes give your home a rustic look.Depending on the climate, they do require maintenance. They are cost effective but might be prohibited in some areas due to fire hazard.

Rubber Shingles are a relatively little known product that are made from recycled tires. Rubber shingles are made to imitate slate or wood shingles. They are durable and maintenance free. These are likely the most environmentally sustainable choice as they are made from approximately 95% recycled material and are recyclable.

12. Windows and Doors:

PVC Windows are the most commonly used in Canada, as they are durable, versatile, and can be installed with all different types of siding.

Wood windows are commonly used in older homes, but are still manufactured for new homes. Wood windows require more maintenance than vinyl or aluminum windows. The wood frame provides better insulation than the PVC.

Aluminum windows have very slim frames and, therefore, more glass surface. Aluminum transfers the heat easily and is a poor insulator. They are more often used in commercial buildings.

Fiberglass windows are relatively new and not widely available. They are very durable and offer great energy efficiency, but tend to be costly.

Windows are available with different opening mechanisms or are fixed. Casement windows usually open toward the outside. The awning window is a type of casement window that hinges at the top (does not meet egress code for bedrooms); sash windows slide vertically; sliding windows slide horizontally; and the tilt and turn window can be opened like a casement or pivots in the center. Of course, having a fixed or picture window is another option for places where opening is not desired or possible.

Different glazing options are available for most windows and doors, and vary in terms of expense and efficiency. These options are not discussed here and are best discussed with your designer or window supplier.

Steel Doors are available in many different designs, with or without glass. They are durable, provide great security, and require minimal maintenance.

Fiberglass Doors are available in wood grains or solid colors, with or without glass. They are durable and energy efficient, but generally more expensive than a steel door.

Wood doors are timeless and beautiful. They offer good security, but require regular maintenance.

Once you have your materials for siding, roof, windows and doors selected, gather samples of each material and a few potential colors. Review the samples and color in daylight to make your decision.

Next week we will discuss interior finishes...

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